Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

Published: 2015

Genre: YA fiction graphic novel

Length: 240 pages

Setting: I think near Seattle, Washington, present day or recent past (since cell phones aren’t ubiquitous)

Interest: I saw it reviewed on a blog post (I think it was GeekDad, maybe this post?) and thought it would be a good book to check out.

Summary: Astrid and Nicole have been best friends since first grade. However, in the summer of their fifth grade, their relationship changes. Astrid is fascinated by roller derby after her mother takes her and Nicole to a roller derby match. Astrid wants to do a roller derby summer camp with Nicole, but Nicole wants to do a dance camp with annoying Rachel. They have a falling out, but Astrid still goes to roller derby camp. She’s intimidated at the camp because she can’t really skate and everyone else seems older and more experienced. She sticks with it, and learns the skills, really applying herself when there’s the promise of a mini-bout at the Rose City Rollers bout. She also makes friends with Zoey at roller derby camp, gets in trouble for lying to her mother, and eventually makes up with Nicole.

Final thoughts: This is such a good book on so many levels. There’s the story of roller derby and training for a new skill that Astrid undertakes. She’s not very good at the beginning, but she perseveres and improves dramatically during the course of the summer camp.

There’s the drama of moving from elementary school to middle school. Nicole is starting to be interested in boys, but Astrid isn’t, so Nicole starts hanging out with Rachel because she’s a little more mature than Astrid. Astrid is hurt, but doesn’t realize that in many ways she’s being selfish because she only wants her and Nicole to do with she likes. There’s some tension of not fitting in, but Astrid finds a new sense of identity in with the roller derby girls, which perhaps isn’t what her mother hoped she would be.

Finally, there’s quite a bit on how to be a good person in a relationship, whether that relationship is mother to daughter or friend to friend. As a bonus, my kids loved it. They both read the book multiple times. Mr. Curiosity said he liked the growth Astrid showed in roller derby and how she stuck with it, even though she didn’t start out very good at it.

The art adds to the story as well. It’s realistic art, with many different body types and skin colors being shown. There’s also occasional drawings done by Astrid.

Title comes from: The topic.

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!

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Short Stories by Kate Heartfield

archives-issue3Title: Word for Word

Published: May 2013 in Waylines Magazine, Issue 3

Genre: Fantasy-ish

Length: 5 pages

Setting: a random city, present day

Interest: It was included in the 2014 Campbellian Anthology

Summary: Have you every wished you could talk back something you said? Sam has a Box that let’s him do just that. If he types up the words exactly on the typewriter that came with the Box, the words are erased from everyone’s memories, including his own. Turns out, without those memories, you can’t grow as a person and Sam’s pretty much a dick. He finally realizes that, and takes all his memories out of the Box.

Final thoughts: Interesting enough, especially the idea that without those painful memories you can’t actually grow and improve as a person.

Title comes from: Sam had to write down his conversation word for word for the Box to make everyone forget the words.


Art by Melissa Mead

Title: For Sale by Owner

Published: August 2013 in Daily Science Fiction

Genre: Fantasy-ish

Length: 11 pages

Setting: a house on the Ridge, present day

Interest: It was included in the 2014 Campbellian Anthology

Summary: Ron has lived in his house on the Ridge for years and years. The Ridge is the favorite location for suicide attempts, and Ron has taken it upon himself to try to persuade anyone attempting suicide to reconsider. He’s not always successful, but that’s OK. However, he’s ready to be done with his job and he thinks he’s found his successor in Ajay.

Final thoughts: An interesting story, with the only fantastic element the fact that Ron has lived over 150 years.  Ajay is one of the suicide attempts, but Ron gives him purpose and a reason to keep on living in taking his place in the house on the Ridge.

Title comes from: The house on the Ridge had a sign out front, “For Sale by Owner” as Ron looked for someone to take his place.

Title: A Pair of Ragged Claws

Published: April 2013 in Black Treacle

Genre: fantastical horror

Length: 10 pages

Setting: a dance club, present day

Interest: It was included in the 2014 Campbellian Anthology

Summary: Giant, sentient Scorpions have appeared on Earth and they’ve started to participate in human society, including making music. Rona is at a dance club where a Scorpion band is playing and she wants more than anything to be part of that band. She has that wish when the singer for the band takes her backstage and Rona learns how humans “develop” the ability to talk to Scorpions.

Final thoughts: This was definitely the creepiest of the stories. It seems the Scorpions get bored easily with their human translators, and once you’re linked to the Scorpions, only death will sever those ties. Rona gets what she wants, the chance to tour with a Scorpion band, but it certainly isn’t a long-term job.

Title comes from: When the Scorpion grabbed Rona with its claws, it marked up her arms with its ragged claws.


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Weekly Wrap-Up: More Genetics

The kids have been continuing their study of genetics over the past few weeks. Miss Adventure hasn’t been reading too much, because I’ve been making her summarize every paragraph she reads (and she finds it very difficult to summarize, not just recite the whole paragraph back to me). She’s been reading most of Baa!: The Most Interesting Book You’ll Ever Read about Genes and Cloning by Cynthia Pratt Nicolson. The illustrations are not my preferred style (what you see on the cover is indicative of the people you’ll see illustrated throughout the book), but the text is very informative while not being too technical for Miss Adventure. The author provides several suggested activities to reinforce the ideas mentioned on that page in the “You Try It” sections. There are also little vignettes of real-life examples of the genetic principles discussed on the page.

Mr. Curiosity needed something a bit more in-depth for his reading. I found him What’s in Your Genes?: From the Color of Your Eyes to the Length of Your Life, a Revealing Look at Your Genetic Traits by Katie McKissick. This is a humorous approach to genetics, starting from what is DNA to inheritance patterns of specific traits to gene sequencing. The author takes a very irreverent tone throughout the book, which Mr. Curiosity is quite enjoying, but it’s probably more appropriate for the older kids or adults since there’s the occasional mild swear word or sexual innuendo.

Finally, to end on a completely unrelated note, we have Ed Emberley’s Picture Pie: A Circle Drawing Book. One of the homeschool blogs I read (I wish I could remember which one) mentioned they were using the book so I thought I would check it out. The basic principle is you cut circles out of paper, cut those circles into halves, quarters, or eighths, and then rearrange the pieces to make interesting shapes. The kids found the book quite inspiring. Miss Adventure made a couple of individual images following the instructions in the book.

photo(12)Mr. Curiosity used the circle images in a larger drawing.

photo(11)Everyone had fun. It helped that I had two sizes of circle punches from my crafting.

And those are the books we used this week. Linking up with the Weekly Wrap-Up at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers Weekly Wrap-Up.


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Packing for Mars by Mary Roach

Subtitle: The Curious Science of Life in the Void

Published: 2010

Genre: science nonfiction

Length: 318 pages of story, 334 pages total

Interest: I saw the book on the shelf when I was looking for genetics books. I’ve loved the other books by Mary Roach I’ve read, so I figured this one would be enjoyable as well.

Summary: Roach explores all the aspects that go into long space trips. This ranges from choosing astronauts to figuring out what the lack of gravity will do to a person. She delves into simulations for the isolation and lack of gravity. She also explores the difficulties of living in space, including bathing, eating, going to the bathroom, and even the possibility of sex.

Final thoughts: Fascinating, as per usual. At least every other page, I had a “Huh!” or “Really!?!” moment and wanted to share them with someone. Usually those moments were included in the footnotes (which I never saw in the text. When I finished a page, I’d have to search for the little star on the page so I knew what exactly the footnote was referencing.) Roach is not afraid to ask those questions we’re all thinking, regardless of how off the wall or gross it might seem. The amazing this is she got answers to most of those questions, which means you learn quite a bit reading this book. I also appreciated the fact that she was able to gain access to NASA administration as well as American, Japanese, and Russian astronauts.

Title comes from: The nominal focus of the book was long trips in space like you’d experience for a trip to Mars.

Reading challenges fulfilled: 30/100 in my Finally to 100 Challenge, and a P in my Title Alphabet Challenge

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image or subtitle to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!

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Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

Published: 2013

Genre: YA historical fiction

Length: 360 pages

Setting: England and Germany, 1944

Interest: It’s a companion book to Code Name Verity that I read last year and loved. A friend reminded me of the book and I decided to read it now, before I forgot about it again.

Summary: Rose Justice is an American ATA pilot alongside Maddie, who we met in Code Name Verity. Her uncle pulls some strings and gets her over to France. In the course of tipping a V-1 rocket off course, she gets captured by Germans and sent to Ravensbruck. The Germans don’t quite know what to do with a female, American pilot, so she gets placed into a group of French resistance women. Rose starts out in the skilled labor section of the camp, but she stops working when she realizes she’s making fuses for V-1 rockets. She’s given two times 25 lashes and sent back to the main camp. There, she’s adopted by the Polish Rabbits (a group of Polish girls that were used for medical experiments). Everyone works to stay alive and somehow tell the world what’s happening in the camp. Rose is able to escape, along with two others. Once free, she has a hard time readjusting to normal life. She also has a hard time talking about what happened at Ravensbruck.

Final thoughts: This is a very powerful book and even darker than Code Name Verity. Again, I’m not sure why it’s considered YA, but it’s definitely for the older teens. Since it’s set in a concentration camp, it covers a lot of tough subjects – torture, death, evil people, and how to stay alive in such a horrible situation. You see people who banded together to keep a community strong, and people who sunk to the depths of despair and just looking out for oneself. There’s also a reminder that women played more of a role in the war than you typically hear about in history books (which is true for most wars, I think). This book would be a great introduction to WWII and the evils the Nazis perpetrated for an older teen.

An interesting component of the book is poetry. Rose used poetry, both what she wrote and what she had memorized in school, to express emotions that were otherwise difficult to put into words. The poems also help keep her alive since she uses them as a currency to get more food from the intellectually-starved inmates of Ravensbruck.

Maddie is the character that makes this book a companion to Code Name Verity. The book really isn’t about Maddie, so it’s not a sequel, but the events in this book obviously follow those in Code Name Verity. If you’re interested in the books (and you should be because they’re really good), you should start with that one.

Title comes from: Rose was the main character and she came under fire when she was captured.

Reading challenges fulfilled: 29/100 in my Finally to 100 Challenge

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!


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Infographic Guide to Literature by Joanna Eliot

Published: 2014

Genre: nonfiction, literature

Length: 160 pages

Interest: The title and cover caught my eye in the new book section at the library. I find infographics fascinating, and a whole book about literature in graphic form? Sign me up! Continue reading

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Short Stories by A. T. Greenblatt

Art by Wi Waffles

Art by Wi Waffles

Title: Tell Them of the Sky

Published: July 2013 in Daily Science Fiction

Genre: fantasy

Length: 6 pages

Setting: some post-apocalyptic world with minimal technology

Interest: It was included in the 2014 Campbellian Anthology

Summary: Kitkun fabricates flying toys in a world where the sky is obscured by smog. He always hopes that one day, someone will come into his shop and ask about flying. He’s rewarded when Aya comes in one day. She’s too young to fly yet, but keeps coming back. Kitkun starts working on a pair of wings for her. She’s finally ready to fly after fighting in the army.

Final thoughts: A sweet little story about wanting something more, something you know is there without there being any evidence of it. In this case, the “something more” is the sky, but I think it has a correlation to why people believe in religion as well. Kitkun is the prophet of the sky. He’s actually seen it, but he can only show it to one other person, who will then move on to tell about the sky in another place. Greenblatt gives the reader enough description of the setting that you can fill in the details yourself, without realizing you’ve done so. I enjoyed the story.

Title comes from: It is the charge Kitkun lays on Aya when he gives her wings.

imgBookTitle: Letters from Within

Published: 2013 in 16 Single Sentence Stories (which you can read for free as a pdf if you follow that link)

Genre: fantasy

Length: one page

Setting: inside a dragon

Interest: It was included in the 2014 Campbellian Anthology

Summary: It is a letter from a knight to his princess love about the dragon he went out to slay and his success in doing so.

Final thoughts: I didn’t realize the story was a single sentence until I saw the title of the publication source. It really is a single sentence that rambles a bit, but is totally in keeping with the tone of the letter. Even though the story is only a page long, it still manages to pack in what happened to the poor knight, and a fair bit of humor as well.

Title comes from: The knight is writing to his princess from inside the dragon.


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